Meet the Team

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Principal – Jennifer Gill

Prior to taking on the role of Principal, Jennifer was Head of Education at Acorn Park, so she knows the children and the team here really well. Having worked originally within the mainstream education system, Jennifer developed a real passion to help children with special needs and quickly transitioned to work in this sector. She has worked across a broad age and needs spectrum and for the last ten years has also supported in the residential sector.

“I started at Acorn Park as Team Manager in education and am now the Principal here. I originally started in the mainstream sector but quickly realised that I wanted to work in special educational needs as I had an affinity and the resilience that was required for the job.  My break through moment came in my first year of teaching when a five year old boy with autism kissed a piece of orange satsuma after weeks of support from myself. The reason it was so monumental was that he would only ever eat green food prior to that moment! The elation, joy and motivation that came with that break through has stayed with me ever since.

Whilst I continue to support students and their families in person I find that my drive and ambition now is to inspire the next generation of staff at Acorn Park to have passion for their jobs, be the best and deliver an outstanding service to the young people they support and care for. The children and their families should be aspirational for their futures and our service should facilitate all that they need to achieve their outcomes successfully and with dignity. I want to provide an outstanding service that meets the needs of all who come here, children and staff alike.”

 

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Head of Education – Arabella Hardy

Arabella has worked with young people across a broad spectrum to support them in finding the best possible outcomes and employability status that they can achieve. She is experienced within the special educational needs sector and takes a holistic approach to education, whereby children aren’t just encouraged to achieve their academic potential. They also learn vital skills that will help them engage in learning and prepare them for life.

“The immediate thing that attracted me to the school was the location and the grounds enabling the students to have the space and freedom that they need.

Acorn Park is a wonderful school where all students are accepted, respected, supported and encouraged to be the best that they possibly can be and to develop and celebrate their individual future aspirations and lifelong goals.

From walking through the gates I immediately realised that I wanted to be part of the Acorn Park School community. The trans-disciplinary approach to education, care and therapy all working seamlessly together is fundamental when working with children with so many different complex needs.

I enjoy being part of a committed senior leadership team with all staff from teachers, high level teaching assistants, learning support assistants, duty managers, seniors, support staff and the excellent therapy team, domestic and facilities, all working together for the common goal of all the students.

I think the children best sum up why I come to school each morning, in our last Ofsted inspection the students said the following;

“We are proud of our school and we like coming to school, as school understands our Autism and the range of challenges we experience and how to best support them in our learning.”

 

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Registered Manager – Sam Millward

Sam Millward leads our residential team. What makes Sam really stand out is her years of first-hand experience supporting children with a range of complex needs. Having worked within caring services all her working life, Sam takes a pro-active, hands on approach to leading our team of carers.

She has an impressive history of helping residential homes to achieve outstanding Ofsted status, which she puts down to her commitment to the children under her care. We never give up on our children and Sam makes sure the team have the right skills and resources to care confidently.

“When I was younger I always had an ambition to be a primary teacher, my own teachers at the time were inspiring and the school environment was one where I, in particular thrived. However back then I was unaware that there was a world of residential care where the support and care for children went beyond the classroom and time table. I was intrigued, and applied for my first post as a care worker back in 2000 and since then, I have never looked back.  I have found that the opportunity to be creative and engage with children in a fun and meaningful way has always been personally very rewarding.

Supporting and coaching other staff to reach their full potential in order to provide the children with the best that they can is also very rewarding. I have had countless experiences of staff who have shown incredible resilience in supporting children to overcome daily struggles and I feel proud each time to think that I have played a small part in that.  I feel there is so much potential at Acorn Park, due to the size and location of the grounds, the job really is a gift.”